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AITO agents urged to ‘take the lead’ in responsible travel market

Travel agents need to start offering responsible travel options to customers or risk losing business.

Speaking at Association of Independent Tour Operators Specialist Travel Agents annual domestic conference Journeys a la Carte managing director Margaret May said previously the focus and expectation has been placed on operators and suppliers to prove their green credentials.

However, she said it is now up to travel agents to start pushing the message to consumers and cashing in as a result.

She said: “We are in a primary position to be able to align AITO agents with responsible travel and we should be seen to be taking the lead.”

May said the opportunity was there as AITO agents are already working closely with AITO operators who have practised and trumpeted responsible travel for far longer than mass market operators.

She said consumers are also becoming more concerned with the damage their holidays and agents must cash in.

She quoted a Mintel report from 2006 stating responsible tourism will grow by 25% year by year while a Lonely Planet survey of 24,500 people in the same year found 93% of those questioned intend to travel more responsibly in the future.

May added: “It will also be a profitable market for us to enter, green is the new gold.”

However, she said in order to ensure the success of such a move, AITO operators must do more to educate agents about their green credentials while the agents must sell them more aggressively to their customers whose habits are changing.

May said: “We will need to be able to give clients what they want we need to recognise in the future clients will be different as they will have a social conscience.”

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